The Brand Identity

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Vertigo is a Melbourne based graphic design studio specialising in brand identity and design for creative and commercial clients. We had some questions for Founders, Mirella Arapian and Nicolas Collerson.

Why did you guys decide to start Vertigo?

Before Vertigo was established, Mirella was running a studio and Nicolas was working in the print industry. After a year of collaborating on various projects and seeing how well we worked together, we decided to join forces and rebrand the studio to Vertigo. Our combined experience in graphic design, print and fine art has allowed us to work with a diverse range of clients from different sectors and backgrounds.

What’s the design culture like in Melbourne?

Melbourne has a dynamic, thriving design scene. People here are friendly, welcoming, and open to new ideas and ways of thinking. The culture is highly collaborative, with lots of independent studios and makers from different disciplines coming together to work on commercial and personal projects. At any given time there’s a handful of local and international events, festivals, workshops, talks and exhibitions. Melbourne is an exciting place to nurture creativity.

On your site you mention that you aim to deliver modernist design solutions. What do you feel defines a great modernist approach?

An effective modernist approach strips away the unnecessary and uncovers the pure idea that drives an object’s form and function. Humans shape the environment and the environment shapes humans, therefore the relationship between product and design must be significant and meaningful. To achieve this, design must have a purpose, and it must work with an object, not against it as its own, separate entity. This is our core philosophy and we strive to consistently create work driven by this approach.

“Overall we designed the identity to look like the interior of a house.”

Can you talk us through your identity for Imajen?

Imajen is an interior solutions business specialising in interior design, colour consulting and home organisation. The client wanted to solve the problem of how to appeal to mature homeowners who want to downgrade, sell or renovate their home. Because that involves decluttering in some way, we created a visual narrative that provides a sense of clean, calm space. We used the Gill Sans typeface because it is familiar and establishes trust. Our research into interior design showed that when decorating, colours are divided into percentages: 60% primary, 30% secondary, 10% accent (the 60-30-10 decorating rule). We used light grey, dark grey and cyan, respectively, as these are the colours most effective for reducing stress. Overall we designed the identity to look like the interior of a house.

What are your essentials in the studio?

In no particular order: music, natural light, plants, visual stimulation, a reference library of books and magazines, room to spread out to sketch ideas and get messy, coffee, snacks.

How often do you look to collaborate with other creatives, such as photographers and illustrators, during the design process?

Being a small, independent studio we obviously can’t do everything ourselves, and we don’t have the desire to become a jack-of-all-trades studio. We focus on what we do best (brand identity and design) and call upon creative experts when required. This means not only are we able to directly support smaller businesses and freelancers (instead of larger studios and agencies), we can also provide our clients a more personalised, streamlined service, with a strong focus on collaboration and attention to detail.

“The ampersand stands for the collaborative aspect of the business: the relationship with its founders as well as other makers and designers they work with.”

What’s the inspiration behind your logotype for Smith & Thomas?

Smith & Thomas is a local furniture studio inspired by Danish and Japanese design. The logotype is a typographical representation of the furniture, referencing its structure with emphasis on joinery and craftsmanship. The ampersand stands for the collaborative aspect of the business: the relationship with its founders as well as other makers and designers they work with. The typeface is Ossature by The Designers Foundry.

Which of your projects has been the most challenging, and why?

Probably our work for Sea Shepherd Australia. We were tasked with designing a company profile for the organisation to send out to media and potential corporate sponsors. The original profile was a 14-page Word document with paragraphs of dry text and small, low res images. The project was challenging because we were given complete creative control. While having an open brief may be a dream for some designers, we do our best work when there are defined constraints. That said, it’s one of the projects we are most proud of and definitely one of the most rewarding.

“While having an open brief may be a dream for some designers, we do our best work when there are defined constraints.”

Where do you look for inspiration outside of graphic design?

We visit a lot of galleries, exhibitions, events and spaces to get educated and inspired. We love learning about other areas of art, design and creativity, and generally look to practitioners who are passionate and driven by what they do. Lately these include Alfred HitchcockKris KuksiPaul LaffoleySissel TolaasThe Melbourne Symphony OrchestraM/M ParisSnøhetta and Experimental Jetset. We also derive inspiration from nature, the environment, and space.

What are Vertigo’s plans moving forward in 2016?

To continue challenging ourselves and our clients. We are working with Sea Shepherd again this year, and looking to undertake more large-scale, cultural projects. We also want to keep exploring the possibilities of graphic design and how we can use it to build more engagement within our community.


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